How much do Suffolk Citizens Advice Bureau bring to the county's economy?
PUBLISHED: 13:00 31 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:22 31 December 2019
NELLEKE VAN HELFTEREN
Fresh calls have been made to support Suffolk's Citizens Advice Bureau after new figures revealed the county's multi-million pound benefits.
A task force set up in 2019 aimed to investigate means to support the county's bureau, featuring Ipswich, Babergh, Mid Suffolk and West Suffolk councils along with input from Suffolk County Council.
Findings from those meetings have revealed that for every £1 invested in CABs, £3.52 is saved by national government and local authorities and £20.84 generated in wider social and economic benefits.
It means that in Suffolk, an estimated £8.1m has been saved and wider benefits of £48.1m have been seen.
The group has yet to make formal recommendations, but task group member Sandra Gage, Ipswich borough and Suffolk county councillor, said more was needed.
She said: "I am disappointed that the task group has been unable to reach either a conclusion or to have made any recommendations.
"As a member of the group it has been clear to me that the reason we have had to meet is because Suffolk County Council reduced and then threatened to withdraw completely its funding of Suffolk CABs.
"It is obvious that the group could and should be making recommendations to Suffolk County Council.
"CABs across Suffolk provide an invaluable service supporting residents to resolve issues that are causing them distress or putting them at risk of significant harm."
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Ms Gage acknowledged that the county council was planning to restore some grant funding of £120,000 a year for three years from April, but said it was far below the £368,000 previously provided and highlighted the £500,000 contribution from district and borough councils.
The findings will now be presented to each council's respective scrutiny committees for recommendations.
In his report, Alastair McCraw, chairman of the task group and chairman of the Babergh and Mid Suffolk joint scrutiny committee, said: "The task and finish group do not feel in a position to make any formal recommendations yet.
"We will report to our respective scrutiny committees in January.
"Budget preparations are already well underway, and we lost significant time during the general election.
"We hope our study of the value, impact and funding needs for Citizens Advice in Suffolk speaks for itself.
"We will meet early in the new year to consider possible recommendations and funding opportunities.
"In the interim, the task and finish group is agreed that Suffiolk LCAs' core services need core funding and every additional £1 invested would be well spent."
According to Gordon Jones, county council cabinet member for finance, the £120,000 annual grant over three years is able to be included in the council's budget again as the funding settlement from central government was better than it had been in previous years.
However, the CABs have been told that they must be financially self-sustaining after those three years.